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My mind works sometimes in strange ways. I was watching a football game and the color commentator said the Quarterback TELEGRAPHED that pass to the defense. It made me wonder about Samuel Morse and his invention of the TELEGRAPH.
Part of my fascination with the TELEGRAPH is that a collaborator of Morse was Alfred Vail who was born and died in my hometown of Morristown NJ. Vail’s father Stephen Vail owned Speedwell Iron Works and it is where the public had their first demonstration of the TELEGRAPH. Every kid in my neighborhood spent time playing at that site now called Speedwell Park. Historic Speedwell is located across US 202 from the park and on the opposite side of the Whippany River.
How Morse went from painter to inventor involves a lot of personal tragedies. In the span of four years (1825-1829) he lost his wife, dad, and mom. He traveled to Europe and in 1832 he met Charles T. Jackson. Jackson sparked his interest in the concept of a TELEGRAPH When he successfully launched the TELEGRAPH in 1844 his next step was a patent.
Almost as soon as Morse received his patent for the telegraph in 1847, he was hit with litigious claims from partners and rival inventors. The legal battles culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court decision O’Reilly v. Morse (1854), which stated Morse had been the first to develop a workable telegraph.
He went on to become wealthy. Almost immediately TELEGRAPH lines were stretching across the country and the world. In 1866 the first permanent telegraph cable had been successfully laid across the Atlantic Ocean; there were 40 such telegraph lines across the Atlantic by 1940.
Yet all great things can be replaced and that was the case with the TELEGRAPH. In the United States, Western Union shut down its service in 2006. At the time, the company reported that only about 20,000 telegrams were sent in the previous year.
The last TELEGRAPH was sent out by India’s state-run telecommunications company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) on July 14, 2013.